How will you vote?
A third of teachers in England and Wales do not rate the education policies of any political party. Only 42% say they will vote Labour
These figures, taken from an NOP poll reported in the TES on April 6th, reflect the growing cynicism of teachers - alongside many public-sector workers - to a governing Party that has turned its back on its traditional voters and embraced big business.
While our trade union leaders attempt to call-off action to save Labourís blushes, the Socialist Party believes that trade union members need to build a new mass workersí party. In the General Election, Socialist Party members will be standing as part of the Socialist Alliance, to offer voters an alternative to New Labour and to help lay the ground for the new party we need to build.
Socialist Party members will be making Labourís broken promises on education a key part of their election campaigns.
In Lewisham, where the Socialist Party has just won its second council seat, Councillor Ian Page will be standing in Lewisham Deptford. Telegraph Hill, the first "Fresh Start" school now heading for closure, is in Ianís ward. As well as exposing how itís not teachers but Labour politicians that are to blame for the failure,
Ian is campaigning against selection and for a new, genuinely comprehensive secondary school to be opened (see Ianís election leaflet).
In Coventry, where the Socialist Party has already won three council seats against Labour, Councillor Dave Nellist will be standing for the Socialist Alliance in Coventry North East. Dave has been helping to lead a campaign against Coventryís plans to get rid of over 2,000 supposedly "surplus" places in Coventryís primary schools. He has been helping to link parents, teachers and the community in a campaign to force the council to back down.
Alongside the NUT, Dave is demanding that the arbitrary ruling of 1.8 square metres per child is increased so that as well as opposing cuts and closures, each school has enough space for SEN provision, proper libraries, a medical room and adequate ICT and dining facilities.
Andy Pryor, a supply teacher in Bristol and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Socialist Alliance in Bristol East, offers a
" Four years ago when the Tories had gone and Blair had made education part of his education pledges, the anticipation in our staffroom had been tangible. Blunkett sent an open letter to schools promising a new era of partnership. What a stark contrast to his hostile broadsides against teacher unions now.
No wonder there is a recruitment and retention crisis. I myself have surrendered the security of a permanent full-time contract in order to have time and energy to have the quality of life I felt I deserved.
If the unions can sustain industrial action and bring parents and students on board, there are significant gains to be made. "
This is an example of what an election leaflet should look like, from the Lewisham campaign.
Where are the secondary school places ?
Parents of children across the north of the borough are demanding the right to send their children to a well-resourced local comprehensive school. The Socialist Party and our two councillors, Ian Page and Sam Dias, pledge to do everything we can to win that fight.
Lewishamís most recent School Organisation Plan recommended that there should be 120 EXTRA Year 7 school places in Lewisham by September 2002. Instead - thanks to their mistakes - the Council are looking to close Telegraph Hill School. That means even FEWER school places in Deptford. Council Officers now say their own Plan was wrong and that they can cope with one less school. Why should parents have any more faith that they have got it right this time ?
Itís not enough to look at the total number of places in the borough as a whole, we need enough places in local schools. We need well-run local schools that are part of the community they serve and within easy travelling distance for children. Deptford Green provides such a school - but many other children are being asked to take a bus ride to the other side of the borough.
Selection makes things worse
Instead of introducing legislation to bring Haberdashers Askes in line with other schools, Labour have allowed it to continue to select its pupils. Schools like Prendergast can interview pupils to see "whether their values are in harmony with those of the school" (!). This selection means there are fewer places available for local children. It also means the other secondary schools struggle to get a genuinely comprehensive intake - with all the problems that leads to, as at Hatcham Wood and elsewhere.
Labour is failing our children
Labour has carried on underfunding schools, just like the Tories before them. Thanks to the intolerable pressure this has put staff under, many local schools now face a recruitment crisis. Secondary schools in difficulties like Telegraph Hill are some of the worst hit. Ian Page supports union action to demand teachers are given the decent pay and conditions that will stop staff leaving.
Now Labour want to make things even worse by encouraging more selective church and "specialist" schools. Far from modernising secondary schools, this is going back to recreating secondary modern schools.
Even Joan Ruddock admits that the Councilís "Fresh Start" experiment at Telegraph Hill has been a disaster. But it was Labour Education Ministers who came up with this policy. Staff reps on the Education Committee Mick Suter and Martin Powell-Davies, both Socialist Party members, warned in advance that Fresh Start would fail. Labour councillors ignored our advice and pressed ahead. Now they have a responsibility to sort out the mess.
A new school is needed
Thousands of pounds have been invested in the Telegraph Hill buildings. This could and should be the site of a thriving local secondary school if it is allowed to build up from small numbers with a really comprehensive intake and the backing and involvement of local parents.
Ian Page will campaign for:
An end to selection.
A well-resourced, genuinely comprehensive school on the site of Telegraph Hill school.